PITTSBURGH — The Calgary Flames are the highest scoring team in the Western Conference and the Pittsburgh Penguins found out why. The Penguins failed to muster enough offense until Evgeni Malkin turned up the volume in the third period with a pair of goals. Otherwise, Calgary frequently found open players in good positions and those players found the back of the net. Calgary chased Penguins goalie Matt Murray after two periods and beat the Penguins 5-4.
Calgary dominated the second period and put more than enough distance between themselves and the Penguins. Calgary benefitted from deflections and broken coverages to lead 5-2 after the second period.
In the first period, little plugger Andrew Mangiapane was also a presence in the first 20 minutes. He created a turnover and scoring chance after stripping Penguins center Jared McCann then a couple of minutes later, Mangiapane (2) scored his second goal of the season as the final skate of a triple deflection.
“Sometimes pucks go off sticks, it is what it is,” said Sullivan.
Calgary defenseman Oliver Kylington’s shot from the point deflected off a pair of players en route to the net. The puck changed direction by several feet when it hit Mangiapane’s skate and trickled beneath Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
After getting a golden scoring chance in the first two minutes, Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz scored his first point later in the first period. Just after the instigating penalty to Sam Bennett expired, Schultz high wrist shot was deflected by Jake Guentzel (28).
The Penguins were tied 1-1 after the first period, but they were torched in the second for four goals.
Michael Frolik, who has been demoted to the fourth line took advantage of broken defensive zone coverages and beat Evgeni Malkin to the net. Frolik (12) found a pizza waiting on the doorstep and easily poked it home.
“They scored goals and it was my mistake. I lost my man,” Malkin said. “We were better 5v5. We were back and we played hard.”
Austin Czarnik (3) who was plastered earlier in the second period by Marcus Pettersson beat Matt Murray with a short side wrister from the back of the left wing circle.
Murray was the victim of another deflection later in the second period. Calgary defenseman Travis Hamonic (4) was credited with a goal when his wrist shot deflected off Brian Dumoulin’s stick and over Murray.
For additional insult and a larger lead, Sam Bennett, who received an instigator penalty for a fight with Pettersson after the hit on Czarnik scored the fourth Calgary goal of the period. Bennett (11) was the third man to the net as the Penguins penalty kill devolved into chaos.
Matt Murray was pulled after two periods and a couple of questionable goals. Murray allowed five goals on 24 shots.
The Penguins furiously mounted a comeback in the third period when Evgeni Malkin raised his game. Malkin scored a pair of goals (15, 16) but the Penguins could not get the tiebreaker.
“I thought (Malkin) had some great moments. You can see when he gets his confidence it really helped him,” Sullivan said. “I thought the power play helped him today.”
The Penguins remain just one point ahead of Carolina for the final Eastern Conference playoff position.